“Love your neighbour as yourself” cannot mean love your neighbour as if your neighbour were you. Only”
― William H. Willimon, Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love
I’ve been reflecting on why I am so eager to share the variety of ways Christians have understood the Bible, discipleship, healing, church and theology. Most would clearly identify me on the liberal end of the Christian spectrum. On almost every hot button issue in the church I have been and continue to be a liberal Christian. In my earlier years I would have been pro-life and opposed to any form of doctor assisted death. But on these issues I have evolved, again to the more liberal side. I am very conservative with money and reluctant to spend it unless the cause is both important and the use of the money effective. This has put me at odds with my liberal colleagues. I also tend to be more impressed with the virtues of an entrepreneurial approach to ministry, again not something that endears me to my mainline colleagues.
But by and large I am a fairly conventional liberal mainline church minister. Except for one important matter, I believe that the healing aspect of Jesus’ ministry was carried out with a variety of people, using a variety of means, touching people in a variety of ways. To those who wanted solidarity, Jesus was there. To those who needed advocacy, Jesus was there. For those who felt the sting marginalization, Jesus was there. For those emotionally bereft and hurting, Jesus was there. Jesus was angry, Jesus was touched, Jesus cried, Jesus prophetic, Jesus was wise, Jesus was silent, Jesus was kind. There is something for anyone who is suffering, who is alone, who is searching, who needs transformation, who is looking for a cause.
Those of us who follow a more liberal Jesus was familiar and comfortable with the Jesus was wisdom, prophecy and solidarity. We more recently have eased into the arms of Jesus the healer, though we are careful to say that the miracles he is said to have performed make us a little uneasy. William Willimon once shared the podium with Marcus Borg at a theological conference. In a moment I would call edgy but most of my colleagues called rude Willimon told Borg, “The more I hear you describe Jesus Marcus he sounds like a tenured professor at a west coast university.” Ouch! Willimon was telling us liberals that we are every bit as guilty of making Jesus in our own image as our conservative and evangelical sister and brothers in Christ.
So when preaching, when offering studies in the church, when offering pastoral care to those who are hurting, I do so sharing my own point of view but also in including the ways other kinds of Christians have found healing. I have learned long ago that each of seems hard-wired to experience healing in a different way and my way could be totally ineffective to another’s ears and heart. I am careful to be authentic, I am very clear what I believe, what has worked for me and how the Christian faith makes a difference in my life. But I am not so arrogant as to think another Christian couldn’t benefit from a different perspective. I share the strengths and weaknesses of my source of healing and the strengths and weaknesses of the other kinds of Christian approaches I share.
There is a limit to this. I can’t abide fundamentalism, it is easily the most damaged and damaging part of the Christian family. Unlike traditionalists who believe their continuity can be a source of new life for broken people or evangelicals who believe starting over in Christ can literally save lives the fundamentalist seems hell bent on condemning people, shaming people, telling people that they are demonic or evil, all in the same of getting others to follow their narrow path. History is filled with the baggage of this approach and I can see no healing that has resulted from its methods.
“Love your neighbour as yourself” cannot mean love your neighbour as if your neighbour were you. Only” No it can’t.